Hotel History and Culture

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Photo by Ed Schipul

Superstition is a touchy subject. Even the most rational traveler might take a pause before booking a flight on Friday the 13th — although he or she may never actually admit it to friends and family. While researching the most haunted hotels in the world, we ran into a number of travel superstitions in Asia, a continent with a culture that can take dealing with ghosts pretty seriously. While not everyone in Asia believes in ghosts, there is a general consensus among the believers that hotel rooms in particular can attract the departed as a kind of way station between this life and the next. Curious, we asked self-proclaimed “modern-day nomad” Nellie Huang –  who grew up in Singapore and now writes about her travel adventures for the likes of Food & Travel and CNN Go – for her take on ghost culture in Asia. She also gave us some tips on what to look for — and then we did some in-depth research to ensure we know how to avoid ghosts while traveling!

Get her tips and takes after the jump >>

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Here at Oyster, we can never get enough of bright lights, big cities, and the continuous buzz and hum of modern metropolis life. There’s just something about the energy in the air that we find exhilarating. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take a moment every once in a while to step back in time. And at times like these, we don’t just want to soak up history – we want to live it. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than waking up in a 13th-century building and imagining how many people have woken up, celebrated, or walked the halls of the very same place — and it doesn’t hurt to get to imagine it while still enjoy modern conveniences like air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. And if you don’t want to stay in a crumbling piece of history, you don’t have to — and you can still get a taste of history. There are tons of preserved medieval towns and villages that have newer– even sleek and modern — hotels.  So if you want to get medieval on your vacation (in a historic kind of way, not an urban dictionary kind of way), we’ve got just the right spots to do it. Here are our top ten picks for hotels in ancient towns.

Hotel Athena: Siena, Italy

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Inside the historic walls of Siena, the 100-room Hotel Athena is a classic, upscale property within walking distance of several restaurants and historic sites, including the Siena Cathedral and Biblioteca Piccolomini. Piazza del Campo, Siena’s main square and the site of the famous haven’t-changed-much-since-the-middle-ages Palio horse races, can be reached within 10 minutes by foot. The hotel’s rooftop terrace overlooks the historic buildings of the area and has a bar serving cocktails and snacks. There is a free breakfast buffet with hot and cold items and an elegant restaurant serving regional cuisine. There’s no pool or fitness center at the hotel, but rooms are simple and clean and have free Wi-Fi.

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It’s time to get your spook on. Halloween is just two short weeks away, and for many that means shaking out the costumes, buying some candy and cueing the Monster Mash marathon. But for the brave of heart, Oyster’s here to help you choose your spooky itinerary for Fright Night. No matter where you are across the globe, hauntings and mysteries abound that are sure to scare your socks off. From ghost towns to witches’ hideaways, we’ve found some of the best places to spook and be spooked — and where to rest your head (if you can) at the end of the day. But we’d suggest sleeping with one eye open…

Visit a Ghost Town

The American West is rife with these abandoned metropolises that once served as centers for mining and railroad operations. Walking among the now-desolate edifices that line the streets of these ghost towns is like taking a spooky step back in time, and as the nation’s largest unreconstructed ghost town, Bodie, California is the perfect spot to get your frightening fix. Founded in 1859 on the heels of the gold rush, the town’s 200 original structures once housed thousands of residents – families, robbers, miners, gunslingers, prostitutes – but now they stand eerily empty. Visitors come seeking ghostly encounters — or even just great photos, as the abandoned buildings look hauntingly beautiful at night.

The Hotel: Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite 

When the sun goes down, the monsters come out to play at Yosemite’s Evergreen Lodge.

Located east of Yosemite National Park, Bodie is a fun and spooky visit for campers looking to combine history with mystery this Halloween. And the Evergreen Lodge, a 22-acre cabin resort nestled into the Stanislaus National Forest, is a great spot to call home at the end of the day (if you’re not camping on-site).

Other Haunts: Other ghost towns of the American West worth checking out include Jerome, Arizona (which is well-known for its spectral lore — watch out for the beautiful Sammie Dean!) and South Pass City, Wyoming.

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Owning and operating a hotel is a full-time job, and many of those who devote their lives to the hospitality industry specialize in all things hotel — and that’s it. But there are some unlikely faces in the exclusive “hotel owners of the world” club (hey, it probably exists) that got their starts in other industries; in fact, most of them have their hands in many pots and own their hotels while simultaneously acting, directing, cooking, designing, singing, running a country….you name it! So here we bring you nine surprising hotel owners, from chefs to sultans.

The Greenwich Hotel, owned by Robert De Niro

Greenwich Hotel

The Greenwich Hotel is the hub of Robert De Niro’s personal TriBeCa monopoly: he’s co-owner of the hotel, and also owns its direct neighbors, Locanda Verde restaurant and the Tribeca Film Center. Other owners include developers Ira Druker and Richard Born, of the Mercer and Bowery hotels — both of which are celebrity magnets. The Greenwich also attracts its fair share of stars with its gorgeous, homey rooms and sexy underground spa.

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Oktoberfest is the world’s greatest beer festival — and the celebration kicks off around the globe on Saturday! But this party isn’t just about guzzling steins of frothy brew while tapping your toes to German Oompah. (Although there’s plenty of that. And we fully support it.) It’s also an excuse to celebrate just about anything Bavarian — including pretzels, bratwurst, and pork knuckles. So while you’re deciding whether to wear gauplattlerhosen or lederhosen — we found some great spots to hang your hat, German-style. At these top Berlin hotels, your next stein is always within arm’s reach.

Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Hotel Adlon

If you can snag an invite to Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke (Germany’s VIP beer tent) — then Hotel Adlon Kempinski is your cup of tea lager. The 382-room hotel continues to attract an A-list clientele; this is where Michael Jackson infamously dangled his baby son from a balcony in 2002. It’s an elegant, classic hotel with a rich history. Its predecessor was one of the most popular hotels in Europe through World War II, hosting guests such as Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker. The original building was demolished, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a building inspired by the original was built on the same location near the Brandenburg Gate.

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With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s nice to occasionally be reminded that simple things do exist — and they’re what counts, right? So sometimes a holiday in the big city surrounded by tall buildings, swarms of people, and a constant cacophony — while invigorating — doesn’t quite match the mold in mind for your relaxing getaway. Cue: a visit to America’s Main Streets — the cute and quaint places that remind us of our roots and that it’s perfectly okay to spend the day sipping lemonade from a rocking chair (after all, you are rocking). Luckily, for every hundred or so shiny glass hotel towers crammed onto big city blocks, there are a handful of adorable hotels in quaint towns with classic character and cozy features. So head towards Main Street — because there’s nothing more comforting than nibbling on a warm slice of Americana and admiring the view from a friendly wraparound porch. Here are our top ten picks.

Hob Knob, Martha’s Vineyard

Hob Knob

Centrally along a quaint stretch of Main Street, the Hob Knob is a welcoming bed-and-breakfast with a well-landscaped yard and wrap-around porch. Of course, in high-tourist season the prices reflect its status as a popular boutique — but in a lot of ways, you do get what you pay for. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with Berber carpeting, luxurious European linens and bathrobes, lovely Classic American-cottage decor (though some rooms feel more tended to than others), and pretty bathrooms with marble sinks. Other highlights include the free organic, full-farm breakfast, and the fact that downtown Edgartown is a short walk away. This place isn’t really geared toward families, though — children under the age of seven aren’t allowed, and teens would likely be bored by the lack of a pool on-site.

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The post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel.

Ever been to a hotel that has full-time residents? No, we’re not talking about celebrities or Eloise, but rather residents of the furry or feathered variety that act as mascots at various properties. These domesticated residents often greet guests upon arrival, and can be seen wandering around the lobby or grounds. Whether it be two friendly St. Bernards or a white Birman cat, these animals are more like hotel staff than pets, but they prefer petting to tipping. So if you have to leave your pooch or kitten at home while traveling, you can still get your pet time in at these eight hotels.

Montage Deer Valley, Utah

Montage Deer Valley

The Montage in Deer Valley is a large, luxurious resort with a ski-in/ski-out location. The rooms feel like upscale apartments, with warm wood accents, chandeliers, high-end artwork, fireplaces, and marble bathrooms complete with heated floors, soaking tubs, and separate showers. The pricey hotel has a massive spa (guests get free access to its pool, steam rooms, and saunas) and several restaurants, one with fine dining and another with a bowling alley. In addition to being a pet-friendly hotel, there are two canine ambassadors — Monty and Jonas — both Bernese Mountain Dogs that greet guests in the lobby.

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We love whenever we can get a peek into the lives of the rich and famous, and we find it particularly thrilling to visit the haunts of timeless Hollywood stars and hallowed, storied authors (excuse the pun) of yore. After all, there’s something about the celebs of the past that’s just so much more elegant and refined — even in their infamous debauchery — than those of today’s tabloids. Fortunately, luxurious, historic hotels make it possible to revisit the good ole days, and we find ourselves especially interested in the Mediterranean spots they’d jet off to. So here we bring you five iconic jetsetter getaways in the Mediterranean.

Santa Caterina Hotel, Amalfi Coast

Santa Caterina Hotel

While most of the Amalfi hotels can claim excellent views across the coast, the 66 room-and-suite Santa Caterina Hotel has got five-star features, harmonious antique style, and fragrant gardens. Built against Amalfi’s seaside cliffs in 1880 as a home residence and turned into a hotel in 1904, this luxury property was once a favorite getaway of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and in more recent days, has welcomed celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The Santa Caterina’s four generations of ownership have treated her well, preserving historic elements while successively and successfully adding modern comfort and style.  Guests can take advantage of the wellness center, exclusive swimming pool access, and gym. Dining options range from the elegant Restaurant Santa Caterina to the more casual Al Mare eatery, along with an expansive wine cellar. This property is brand new on Oyster!

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the hotelIt’s been a tough couple of years for Atlantic City, thanks in no small part to the destruction Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. So as hotel experts who, like, really, love hotels, today is a sad day as the just-over-two-years-old Revel officially closed its casino doors this morning after shuttering the hotel on Monday evening. The casino resort is one of three AC hotels to fold in just a two-week period; Showboat closed on Sunday and the Trump Plaza is scheduled to close on September 16. But let’s reflect on happier times, shall we? Like when Kanye announced that now-wife Kim Kardashian was pregnant during a concert at the resort. Or when Michelle Obama attended a Beyonce performance there. Or when our hotel expert got to nosh on these delicious fish tacos during her stay! We hate to use a pun, but we guess Revel just never got to experience beginner’s luck.

Take a walk down memory lane after the jump with pretty pics of this doomed property >>

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Many hotels were not born as hotels. Some first served as prisons, or hat factories, or even lemon distilleries. And some had, shall we say, loftier first lives — as the residences (often, the second, third, or fourth homes) of royalty. That’s right. We’ve stayed at hotels — from the Amalfi Coast to the Irish countryside – that were once the official residences of royals, but have since shed their former titles to serve the lowlier, “ill-bred” set like us. But fortunately, we’ve still been given the royal treatment at each. Check out these eight gorgeous hotels that kings, queens, and counts once called home.

Hotel Palazzo Murat, Amalfi Coast

palazzo murat

Unlike most hotels in the cliffside town of Positano that require a steep walk to reach the beach and town center, the Palazzo Murat is located smack in the town center’s pedestrian zone. It dates back to the 17th century, and for a while it was the extravagant summer home of Napoleon’s brother-in-law and King of Naples, Gioacchino Murat. Its historic opulence is evidenced by intricately cut stone doors and window frames, refurbished tile mosaics, and wooden furniture. With a pristine pool and some nice freebies, Palazzo Murat is ideal for travelers who want to stay in historic lodgings in the heart of the action — but it lacks the gorgeous ocean views of nearby cliffside hotels.

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